Why Bother?

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Not in a metaphysical sense, but why bother with home automation? After all, you can always just walk to a light switch and turn the light on*, can't you?
I had a very stimulating evening with a fellow Idratek enthusiast and amongst other topics we touched on this typical reactions we get when we (dare to) mention HA in public.

Now, I remember when TV remote controls were not very common, and exactly the same objection would be raised by my father. How many people would do without their remote control now? Of course, TVs have become more complicated, and the remote is a neat packaged user interface that avoids despoiling the front panel aesthetic of the moderm TV with horrible knobs and buttons.

But the fact is, we like the convenience, we like channel hopping, we like being able to mute the TV. And the remote control has allowed the introduction of much greater functionality. Would you use teletext if you had to go back to the TV every time you wanted to read the next page? Or rewind the PVR 30 seconds to catch that unspoken but mouthed exclamation? 

So it is with home automation. I like the convenience of being able to walk through my house carrying something with both hands and not having to operate the light switch with my nose. I like being able to run up the stairs and not remember halfway up that I should have turned on the landing light (in fact this is the exact reason I started looking at HA several years ago). 

And in my house this is done without pressing any buttons at all, it is not remote control but automation. Within parameters that I control, the house decides what lights to put on and when without further actions from me.

Already we see that this kind of technology has made more interesting lighting schemes acceptable to the user through simplification of the interface. The architectural use of light, light level and colour schemes matched to moods, time of day or current activity is becoming much more common. Many home automation systems allow multiple "scenes" or "moods" of lighting to be called up from a remote control panel with a single button press, rather than changing the settings of a bank of wall switches and dimmers.

But I think the promise is much greater and extends far beyond lighting control. In the same way that the TV remote has been one of the enabling factors of the PVR, I expect home automation to enable applications we can't conceive today.

*In fact, this very simple user interface hides an enormously complicated system for extracting power from a thermal source, converting it to electricity, delivering it over hundreds of miles and converting it into light, all with a stunning reliability, for which we should be very grateful.

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This page contains a single entry by David published on November 10, 2008 12:05 AM.

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